ROH Manhattan Mayhem V 8/17/2013

ROH 333 – Manhattan Mayhem 5 – 17th August 2013

For the second live event in a row, Sinclair have brought back a vintage signature ROH show with an extremely rich history. The Rottweilers running amok, Samoa Joe and Jay Lethal tearing the house down, Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima trying to kill each other, Eddie Edwards shocking the world to win the ROH Title, Austin Aries becoming the first (and to date only) 2-time World Champion. All these landmark ROH moments took place at Manhattan Mayhem. With the World Title tournament in full swing, the Tag Title division at boiling point and with three guys brought in from New Japan it’s clear ROH are trying to pull out all the stops to ensure this one lives up to the Manhattan Mayhem legacy. Our main event sees another battle in the lengthy rivalry between the American Wolves and reDRagon – this time with O’Reilly and Fish cast in the role of challengers. The three remaining tournament quarter finals look juicy too – with Ciampa/Bennett, Steen/Strong and the eagerly anticipated Anderson/Elgin rematch on the bill. As if that wasn’t enough, Matt Taven welcomes the returning Mike Mondo to the Proving Ground in a rematch of one of 2012’s best SBG TV encounters, Adrenaline RUSH and C&C WrestleFactory meet in a Scramble, and we have the second match of the surprising Young Bucks/ROH comeback tour as they face now-former Tag Champions the Forever Hooligans. Kevin Kelly and new ROH ‘Talent Scout’ Prince Nana are on commentary from Manhattan, NY.

Silas Young vs Adam Page
This has developed into quite the rivalry. Young beat Page in the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament, but then was deeply upset when he lost a surprisingly wild midcard match to the promising youngster on TV a month or so ago. Silas got a measure of revenge when he beat Page (and QT Marshall) in a qualifying match for the World Title tournament – and now both men come to New York to definitively prove who the better competitor is.

Prince Nana says Page reminds him of a ‘Crown Jewel’. Is he comparing him to Jimmy Rave? Is that a good thing? Young raises the ire of the NY fans, who amusingly toss streamers at him at inopportune moments in the early going – meaning he has paper across his face as he tries to trap Page in a headlock. Adam fights gamely but Silas’ veteran instincts and ability to bend the rules sees him control much of the first few minutes. Flying clothesline from Page, but Young catches him trying another high-flying move and tosses him off his shoulders…all the way to the floor! It was an ugly landing for Page – much to Young’s delight. He chokes his young opponent in the ropes until Page rallies with a flurry of headbutts into a belly to belly suplex. Falcon arrow gets 2. Scoop backbreaker from Silas, only for Page to COUNTER the following lariat and hit the RED STAR PRESS for another 2! Young doesn’t like that at all – powerbombing Adam and trying to beat him with his feet on the ropes. HEADSTAND ARABIAN PRESS! Young beats Page at 08:12

Rating – *** – If you’re pushing me to answer which I liked more, then I’d probably say I preferred Page/Kushida from last week. Regardless, this was still another fine opening match from him alongside another extremely polished and impressive performance from Silas Young – who has been one of ROH’s breakout stars in 2013. His experience oozes from him in everything he does, and the way he was able to get large scale reactions out of this big NY crowd without really doing much at all speaks volumes for both his skill and natural physical charisma. Page certainly has some talent, but I’d argue Young is ready to be moved up the card now and, as such, was the right choice to win this trilogy.

Steve Corino strolls to the ring and tries to take his seat next to Kevin Kelly. He claims he has a contract as a Ring Of Honor commentator, but security still arrives to escort him out of the building.

Adrenaline RUSH vs Caprice Coleman/Cedric Alexander
As with the show-title, this is another dose of ROH nostalgia as Delirious has dusted off the Scramble Rules for it. These four men certainly aren’t strangers to one another, and as recently as two weeks ago in Toronto they were squaring off – in a three way which also featured the Young Bucks. That night ACH defeated Cedric to win, and the C&C WrestleFactory would dearly like their win back here.

Coleman and ACH start…predictably at a frantic pace. Caprice manages to dropkick ACH out of the ring, only for the Scramble Rules to instantly allow Tadarius into the ring – cartwheeling into a roundhouse kick straight across Coleman’s jaw. ACH kicks the legs out from under Alexander, only for Ced to pick him up for the Hart Attack leg lariat combo. C&C try to isolate ACH, using multiple tandem moves to keep him a safe distance from the dangerous TD. At last ACH hits the sliding lariat to the floor…and of course, Thomas is now allowed in. His capoeira kicks completely bewitch C&C, who have no response as he batters them from all angles. Coleman at last lands a spinebuster…as Alexander horribly botches some kind of slingshot move and nearly injures himself, his partner and their opponent. ACH catapults him face-first over the top rope to the floor as punishment. He returns with a rebound enzi which KILLS ACH. GERMAN BY TD! NO SOLD! Cedric floors Thomas with a lariat to leave all four down. ACH sets up his slingshot cutter, and when Coleman blocks it he COUNTERS by throwing him out of the ring instead! AIR JORDAN SOMERSAULT PLANCHA ONTO EVERYONE! Thomas tries to win it with a half nelson suplex, but is shunted into the corner – crotching ACH. OVERTIME! C&C get the win at 09:04

Rating – *** – It wasn’t perfect (matches between these four are rarely without the odd sloppy moment), but they were working so fast and so completely on the edge that maybe the odd mistake was a) inevitable and b) entirely forgivable. All four men are so exciting to watch, with ACH looking particularly superb here. The Scramble Rules really worked in their favour.

Matt Taven vs Mike Mondo
This is a Proving Ground Match, so Mondo needs a win or a time limit draw to earn himself a TV Title opportunity in future. In 2012 these guys had a crazy match on TV, with Mondo as the established, contracted ROH guy and Taven looking to force his way in and earn a roster spot. Fast forward a year and we have a rematch – except this time Taven is Television Champion, centrepiece of the House Of Truth and very much a permanent member of the roster whilst No Fear is on the outside looking in. After barely featuring for most of the last 10 months with various injuries (the broken leg at Glory By Honor 2012, then the ‘training injury’ before Border Wars earlier in 2013) it is Mondo (sporting a new look) who needs to produce a strong showing to get a spot.

Kasey Ray, a new Hoopla Hottie, is with the HOT tonight, but there is no Scarlett Bordeaux which sucks. Taven goes straight for the Climax…and Mondo instantly tries to counter to the Double Arm DDT. Neither hits their finisher and they both retreat to re-evaluate their approaches. No Fear tries to take the match to the mat which clearly works in his favour. In that environment he has the power advantage and is a skilled enough grappler to have an answer to everything the TV Champion throws at him. Matt resorts to tossing Mondo out of the ring where the Hoopla Hotties are waiting to deliver a few cheap shots. It’s now that ring rust may play a factor, as Mondo struggles to get up off his back – and when he does Matt is waiting to kick him in the face. Springboard corkscrew plancha nailed for 2. He hits a flying forearm, but is so worn down that he can’t get to his feet before Taven does. His act really isn’t over either, with most of the NY fans actually cheering for Taven by this point. MIND TRIP out of nowhere gets 2 for No Fear. He tries to hit a second time, but Matt counters to the Angel’s Wings. Rolling bicycle kick nailed…but still Mondo won’t stay down. Fans are booing Mondo by this point, even though he’s from New York! Both men desperately go for pinfalls, with the champ getting the edge then climbing to the top rope…where he is inevitably caught. Seleziya is on the apron, distracting the referee so Truth Martini can sneak into the ring. And it turns out Martini is only a distraction too, as Kasey climbs for a FLYING HEADSCISSORS! FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH! Mondo still kicks out! Martini hands the Book Of Truth to Taven, who swings it at No Fear before eating a drop toehold face-first down onto it. Mondo Stomp onto the Book Of Truth! Taven kicks out! Mike tries a diving headbutt but eats Taven’s boots. CLIMAX! Taven wins at 11:39

Rating – *** – This wasn’t as bad as people made out, but you have to be honest and say everything good was coming out of Taven, everything entertaining was coming out of Truth and the Hoopla Hotties…and Mike Mondo contributed very little. I liked his strategy of trying to ground Taven early, but that became nothing more than a stall for time – and Mike was way out of his depth trying to trade spots with his younger and more athletic opponent. In late-2012 Mondo really earned his spot in ROH, but his injury came at a really bad time. He’s been out for so long that a lot of the work to win over the ROH fans has been undone – and performances like this aren’t enough to win it back.

Young Bucks vs Forever Hooligans
There is no feud here – in fact neither of these two teams are actually part of the regular roster. They are, however, two of the finest teams in the world at the moment, and ROH has put them in the ring together as their paths cross this evening. The Hooligans are trying to rebound after losing the ROH Tag Titles to the American Wolves in their first title defence, whilst the Bucks have only just come back to this promotion after an acrimonious departure in 2012. I’m not sure if the Jacksons had actually signed their deal to go to NJPW yet, but they have to know the spotlight is on them and the chance to tour with Japan’s premier puroresu organisation has to be a possibility if they can impress.

The crowd goes ballistic for the arrival of the Young Bucks, further making a mockery of their appalling treatment by SBG last year. It is reminiscent of RVD in ECW, where he had all the external mannerisms of a cocky heel but the audiences treated him as the coolest thing ever. Koslov starts with Matt, and actually gets the better of him on the mat…prompting him to tag in his brother. Romero steps in to meet him, and as ever he is silky smooth on the mat which Nick just can’t cope with. Slingshot splash from Koslov to Nick gets 2. They set up Nick in the corner for a lariat…and as usual Rocky gets carried away and forgets to let Alex join in. Guess what…THEY DON’T ACTUALLY FIGHT! Seriously guys? Every show? Those shenanigans give the Bucks a window of opportunity to seize the initiative for the first time. Gutbuster from Nick, into a neckbreaker/backbreaker combo along with his brother. Young Bucks have Romero isolated, tagging in and out like a well-oiled machine and reducing Rocky to a hapless, battered heap on the canvas. Finally Romero hits an inverted enzi on Nick and gets the hot tag to Koslov – who is crisp and rapid as he delivers kicks from all angles. The furry hat comes out next as he sizes Matt up for the Cossack Kicks! CATAPULT KNEE DROP combo by the Hooligans! SUPERKICK from Nick to block the elevated knee charge! Assisted Shiranui gets 2 on Koslov – the pace is starting to quicken. Slingshot facebuster from Nick…INTO THE MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR! BUT ROCKY AVOIDS IT! FLYING KNEE OF THE APRON! RUNNING DROPKICK THE FLOOR BY MATT! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA BY KOSLOV! All four return to the ring and it’s equally frantic. Nick lands a superkick on Koslov, then turns into a knee strike from Rocky. SUPERKICK BY MATT! He steals the Cossack hat! COSSACK AIR GUITAR STOMPS! Alex pulls Nick onto his shoulders for the DOOMSDAY KNEE STRIKE! MATT BACK FLIPS UNDER A LARIAT! SUPERKICK! SPRINGBOARD SPIKE TOMBSTONE ON KOSLOV! ROMERO SAVES! MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK GETS KNEES! Romero throws Matt off the top rope then flies at him with a tope suicida! CONTRACT KILLER! Hooligans win at 16:51

Rating – **** – These guys may well have just stolen the show, and none of them actually work here. This was an awesome junior heavyweight spotfest from four extremely gifted workers, and the fans in attendance this given evening were privileged to witness it. There wasn’t a whole lot of story-telling, but there didn’t need to be. This was billed as a ‘dream match’, and people wanted to see these teams throw spots at each other – they won’t have been disappointed on that front. Clearly the Bucks won’t sign a Sinclair contract again, but ROH really needs to get the Young Bucks on as many shows as possible. On the independents they are going to be a decent draw (surely enough to earn the cost of their flights from the west coast) and they can absolutely be relied upon to produce killer matches like this on a consistent basis to help shift DVD’s and sell VOD’s. To this day it confuses me why they were so badly treated by Sinclair.

‘We need those guys back’ – Prince Nana on the Young Bucks. Matt and Nick are so impressed with the performance of the Hooligans that they shake their hands – not something they do often.

Before the second half of the show can begin QT Marshall and RD Evans (now amusingly named ‘Marshall Law’) interrupt the show – much to Prince Nana’s dismay. The Barrister is here to complain about injustice in Ring Of Honor, namely that they aren’t booked tonight…and he refuses to leave until someone gives them a match. As luck would have it, new Talent Scout Prince Nana has a couple of guys in mind…as creepy music starts blaring and the arena lights are cut, save for a few red spotlights. Two gentlemen in horrifying clown masks make their way to the ring. The clowns deck Marshall Law, then pull their masks off – to reveal Homicide and Eddie Kingston.

Homicide/Eddie Kingston vs Marshall Law
If these guys are back full time this is extremely interesting. Homicide tanked his ‘big comeback’ to ROH from TNA a few years ago due to a variety of injuries, but actually looked a lot healthier and lot better in the ring last year when he got a few bookings. Kingston meanwhile, hasn’t been seen since 2012 either. Outside of a couple of mini-feuds (with the Vulture Squad and a reprise with Chris Hero) he’s barely even scratched the surface of what he could be capable of in ROH. The returning New Yorkers need to make a statement and make short work of ROH’s resident comedy jobbers.

RD Evans tries to lay in some cheap shots to Eddie. King just dusts them off to hit a capture suplex, then has to leap into the air to kick Marshall as he tries to illegally run in. Homicide gives the Barrister a running boot scrape in the corner…only for QT to tag in and start punching out the former World Champion. What the hell is Delirious doing here? You have a hot debut angle, and you’re having them bump around for Marshall and Evans? Backbreaker/neckbreaker combo on Homicide gets 2. Kingston tagged…T-bone suplex on QT gets 2. Homicide cuts him down with the Ace Crusher before Eddie hits a running elbow to the back of Marshall’s head to win at 05:02

Rating – DUD – I don’t know whether it was inexperience or stupidity on Delirious’ part, but that booking was absolutely terrible. Outlaw Inc. (as Homicide and Eddie will be known) got a hell of a reaction for their comeback. The NY fans were ravenous to see them decimate RD and QT. That wouldn’t have damaged Marshall and Evans’ credibility – they are already over just fine as comedy goofs. But booking a five minute match, during which time Marshall Law got in PLENTY of offence (particularly on former World Champion Homicide) was a dreadful move. The crowd fell to near silence at times, and this basically stunted Outlaw Inc.’s momentum before they’ve even got started. I literally don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to describe how completely appalling this was on Delirious’ part.

The new ‘corporate’ Homicide and Eddie (they are wearing shirts and ties) demand to follow the Code Of Honor…and break RD Evans’ finger in the process.

Tommaso Ciampa vs Michael Bennett
This is the first of three ROH World Title tournament quarter-finals. Both of these men came through their first round matches at All Star Extravaganza 5 – with Tommaso fighting off a spirited challenge from the wildcard entrant Silas Young whilst Bennett controversially beat BJ Whitmer with a piledriver on the apron that would ultimately end his career. A win here takes you to Death Before Dishonor in Philadelphia, and a place in the final four.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but Bennett doesn’t look at all himself as he makes his way to the ring for his first appearance since the accident with Whitmer. How he deals with this could really shape his career – for better or worse. Ciampa’s entrance music is played live which adds to the spectacle. ‘You killed BJ’ – New York…which is funny but won’t help either. Bennett doesn’t look like he wants to get too close to Ciampa at all, doing his best to run until Tommaso catches him and throws him OFF THE APRON and into the guardrails! He hits that kneeling dropkick to a seated Bennett in the middle of the ring for 2. Michael goes after the surgically repaired knee but is dusted off…and an angry Ciampa returns the favour by attacking his leg! Tommaso drops to the mat, behind Bennett’s back, then clutches his knee. It’s an obvious fake-out to everyone except the (former) Prodigy – and there’s some almost pantomime comedy moments as Ciampa pretends to be injured, then acts fine every time Michael turns away from him. Much to Bennett’s dismay, finally the Sicilian Psychopath pops up and knees him right in the face! Too early for the bare knee strike in the corner though, and Bennett counters with a drop toehold then a dropkick from the floor. He looks for Ole Ole Kicks on the outside, but Tommaso evades and delivers OLE OLE KNEES! Bennett tries to get back to his feet…CIAMPA GRABS HIM FOR A GERMAN SUPLEX INTO A CHAIR AND THE RAILS! OLE OLE KNEE WITH SUCH FORCE TOMMASO ENDS UP IN THE CROWD! Project Ciampa blocked by an increasingly desperate Bennett – who manages to ensnare Tommaso’s bad knee in the ropes with another dropkick. No pantomime act this time, and Bennett aggressively picks apart Ciampa’s knees. KNEEBREAKER out of the corner, followed with a knee-DT. He then hits a body slam – except he drops Ciampa so his legs ricochet off the ropes. Tommaso is fighting on one leg but still manages to swing a volley of elbow smashes and a lariat in Bennett’s direction. Cobra Clutch Crossface applied, prompting Bennett to scramble desperately to the ropes. Ciampa’s leg is still bothering him, and as he tries to sprint into another knee strike Michael pounces to drop him with a spear. Bennett goes for the piledriver, but when Tommaso counters it he turns to an ELEVATED CLOVERLEAF! If he didn’t get enough heat for the piledriver, Bennett then decides to simultaneously rip of CM Punk and Ciampa’s moveset – then sit cross-legged in the middle of the ring as the fans hate on him. He picks Ciampa up. GO TO SLEEP…COUNTERED! GO 2 SLEEP BY CIAMPA! GETS 2! They go to the apron, BENNETT IS GOING FOR THE PILEDRIVER! Are you kidding me? Ciampa fights him off and knees him all the way to the floor! RUNNING AIR RAID CRASH ON THE FLOOR! Ciampa shoves Bennett back into the ring and pins him at 14:39

Rating – *** – This was a lot of fun. I’m not sure the crowd were always as into it as they should have been, however, the story these guys went for entertained the hell out of me. Bennett lacked a little bit of snap, which can perhaps be attributed to trauma following his last ROH match, and at times it felt like they were spending a little too much time limping around, posturing to the crowd and generally stalling between spots, but those are things which stopped it being a great match – not things that meant it wasn’t good. Ciampa continues to be particularly impressive since his comeback. As he has become more and more confident in the recovery of his knee he’s become progressively more explosive. He seems to combine the power and rugged, dominant offence of a Samoa Joe with the ability to explode into high-octane spots out of nowhere that people like Austin Aries possess. He really does have the ability to be World Champion in future if he stays healthy, is booked correctly and isn’t snapped up by WWE or TNA before he has the opportunity.

Roderick Strong vs Kevin Steen
This quarter final pits two former World Champions against each other as they look to emulate A-Double by becoming a two-time ROH Champion. Roddy had a reputation for dropping the ball in the big match before his affiliation with the House Of Truth, and being completely honest his won/loss record has been very patchy this year after he severed his ties with Truth Martini at the end of 2012. Steen, meanwhile, comes in riding plenty of momentum after being the man to win Steel Cage Warfare for ROH and kill SCUM (the group he created) once and for all.

Steen gets Samoa Joe levels of streamers during his entrance. Not that Roddy is deterred by that. JUMPING KNEE! DEATH BY RODERICK! He nearly won the match right there! Dropkick through the ropes attempted, only for Steen to COUNTER WITH THE APRON BOMB! STEEN-TON GETS 2! What a crazy first minute! F-5 blocked, so Steen DDT’s Strong from the middle rope to get another nearfall. Fighting at 100mph obviously doesn’t favour Mr Wrestling though, so he looks for ways to slow the pace. Headlocks don’t work so he opts for kicking and elbowing the heck out of Roderick instead. Strong desperately throws chops and knees back at him, before delivering a devastating Olympic Slam to finally bring Steen’s momentum to a grinding halt. As ever, his offence is concentrated on the sternum of his opponent – pinning Steen to the ground to crank onto a modified abdominal stretch. The crowd are still crazily behind Steen and are delighted when he finally evades a Roaring Elbow from Strong and drops him with a clothesline with such force that it leaves both men down. Pumphandle cradlebreaker scores for a nearfall on Mr ROH. Roddy just BATTERS Steen with elbows in the corner – and somehow finds the strength to hit a massive superplex. Stronghold briefly applied, but way too close to the bottom rope. And Steen’s girth is too substantial for him to hit the half nelson backbreaker. Sharpshooter blocked…Death By Roderick…COUNTERED to the Sharpshooter! Strong escapes…JUMPING KNEE! DEATH BY RODERICK! SICK KICK…GETS 2! They fight in the corner, where Steen blocks a second superplex attempt and converts it to an AVALANCHE FISHERMAN BUSTER! Still it’s not enough to get a win. Package Piledriver blocked with elbows! Orange Crush Backbreaker COUNTERED WITH A SLEEPER SUPLEX! PACKAGE PILEDRIVER NAILED! Steen advances to the semi-finals with a win at 11:59

Rating – *** – The beginning and ending portions of this were utterly superb. But the middle (with Strong working the midsection) was so rushed and perfunctory that it really hurt the match for me. I understand the motivation behind Sinclair wanting to put every World Title tournament match on the TV show. It’s good television, and it also means they can tape at their live shows rather than having to run separate TV taping nights which aren’t proving too popular with live crowds. BUT, the downside is that some of these tournament matches so far have felt rushed. This was crying out for a little more time to really flesh things out. Still, even when working with restrictions as these two were, they are so good and so experienced this was pretty decent all the same. Steen is so amazingly over. If ROH are smart they’ll give him whatever they want to stick around. The last thing they need is for him, their most over and most marketable talent, deciding to go the Colt Cabana (indy wrestler/entertainment mogul) route and walk away from Ring Of Honor to earn a decent living elsewhere. He’s already starting to become very Cabana like (with his Highspots chat show, his YouTube diaries and so forth) in his unique ways to interact with fans and sell his product. He will surely join Austin Aries as a 2-time World Champion if he sticks around.

Karl Anderson vs Michael Elgin
This will easily be the biggest match in the tournament so far. Last time we were in New York these two talented heavyweights butted heads in a great SBG TV encounter. Machine Gun took the win last night, and in doing so made Unbreakable re-evaluate his entire Ring Of Honor career. Despite being #1 contender, he stepped away from the World Title picture and turned his focus to ridding ROH of SCUM and training so that, when he did finally get a rematch with Anderson, he’d be ready to beat him. The time is now, and Karl stands between him and the World Championship he now feels ready to challenge for. But will fatigue play a factor here? Anderson got past ACH at the end of July in Providence, and has had an extra week to recover, whilst Elgin had to go through a real war with Paul London in Toronto just two weeks ago. The winner advances to meet Kevin Steen at Death Before Dishonor in the semi-finals.

Elgin isn’t holding anything back here. He follows the Code Of Honor then immediately engages the NJPW star in a VIOLENT strike exchange. Next they go straight for their finishers, but neither man manages to land the decisive early strike. Unbreakable clearly has Karl rattled though, as Anderson takes a cheap shot at him – but is still blasted off his feet with a rugged shoulder tackle from the Canadian. ONE MINUTE SUPLEX! On a guy as big as Anderson that’s no mean feat. Machine Gun looks decidedly less impressive as he has to roll out of the ring as he tries to escape the beating Elgin is dishing out. It’s a wise move, and works to his advantage as the less well-travelled ROH worker tries an ambitious dive off the apron and sees it countered in mid-air to a spinebuster on the floor! Anderson kicks Elgin’s head into the rails – then retreats again, this time into the ring looking for a count-out win. Michael beats the count, but rolls into the ring and straight into a vicious assault on his surgically repaired knees. For all his early success, Elgin is now being picked apart by the Machine Gun. He swings a volley of lariats in Karl’s direction and somehow gets him up for the Oklahoma Stampede. Dead-lift German blocked, so he delivers the Black Hole Slam instead. He fails in attempt to hit the Buckle Bomb so again starts hammering Karl lariats, which Anderson dusts off for another spinebuster. ST-JOE! Elgin heads upstairs and MISSES the corkscrew senton. Death Blow instead! DEAD-LIFT GERMAN! Anderson somehow absorbs that blow and chases Elgin up the ropes…FOR AN AVALANCHE TKO! Elgin kicks out! SIT-OUT TOMBSTONE! Still 2! Ace Crusher blocked again, and converted to the CROSSFACE! Why do the New York fans insist on chanting for Chris Benoit when he does this? Anderson escapes to the apron and does his best to knock Elgin out with a bicycle kick. In return Elgin delivers a jumping enzi which nearly knocks him through Kevin Kelly and Prince Nana’s announce table. DEAD-LIFT SUPERPLEX NAILED! BUCKLE BOMB! NO SOLD! BICYCLE KICK! NO SOLD! SUPERKICK! Back Fist…ducked! Ace Crusher…blocked! Elgin cracks Anderson with a massive elbow strike. DEAD-LIFT SUPLEX POWERBOMB…FOR 2. Anderson is still desperately trying to connect with the Ace Crusher, and doesn’t see ROLLING BACK FISTS coming! SPIRAL BOMB! Elgin wins! He advances to the semi-finals at 17:10

Rating – **** – I’m not sure if I preferred this to the first match. Some things they did much better here (everything Anderson did here was geared towards putting Elgin over), but they struggled to win over a pretty poor crowd and, as good as it was seeing them beating the snot out of each other, at times they lost focus and lost grip of the story they were trying to sell – and were just tossing big spots around without much holding it together. Ultimately, Unbreakable going over Anderson is a huge deal (Karl had been unbeaten since his return to Ring Of Honor, and is unquestionably a major player given his reputation in Japan) and, after besting Paul London in the previous round, gives him massive momentum as he moves to Philadelphia. This was a great, sh*t-kicking, heavyweight slug-out which achieved it’s primary goal of getting Elgin over. It could have done with a little more in the middle portion to keep the crowd from descending into silliness though.

American Wolves vs reDRagon – ROH Tag Title Match
So often in this feud we’ve seen Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish in the ascendency. They are the ones that joined forces and picked a fight with Davey Richards. They are the guys who held the titles, and they are the ones who have come out on top in basically every skirmish these four have engaged in since Final Battle 2012. Which is why it’s interesting to see them thrust, once again, into the role of challengers. They lost their titles to Forever Hooligans a couple of weeks ago on TV – when they weren’t even contractually obligated to defend them (they were so sure of themselves they defending them voluntarily), and after sitting out All Star Extravaganza 5 in protest, they return to claim their rematch – but now against their arch rivals after the Wolves went on to win the belts from the Hooligans in Toronto. This is your main event, and marks the culmination of a tumultuous period in the history of the Ring Of Honor Tag Team Championship.

Richards and O’Reilly start out with a teacher vs student strike-fest. Kyle struggles to keep pace with his former mentor there but does much better when they take it to the mat and actually scores the first nearfall of the match. The NOAH team-mates Edwards and Fish enter the fray, with Bobby admonishing the NY fans for being fervently behind Boston resident Eddie Edwards. Eddie has to retreat to the ropes to avoid the dangerous kicks of his opponent. Davey and Kyle continue to work the mat at a frenzied pace, and still O’Reilly seems to have the edge. The Wolves resort to stealing Young Bucks plays, using rapid-fire tags and a diving double stomp to the exposed arm to isolate Bobby from his partner. The double teaming is relentless, so Fish rolls out of the ring, tagging Kyle on the way then going for a walk on the floor to shake the cobwebs loose. Inside the ring O’Reilly NO SELLS and Edwards kick and boots him right back. NECK CHOP from Eddie…but still O’Reilly is right in his face retaliating! He actually out-strikes Die Hard then slaps him hard in the face as Kevin Kelly proclaims him to be ‘a man now’. Edwards hits back with the Doi 555 into a sliding enzi for 2.

Richards tags and applies the arm capture cloverleaf on Kyle, of course with added torque provided by his fellow Wolf. Again the tag team experience of the Wolves is coming into play as they repeatedly team up to get the better of Kyle. Fish enters the ring to save him from the Backpack Stunner – booting Eddie in the ribs to allow O’Reilly to lock in a deep cross armbreaker. reDRagon break out some double teams and hit a tilta-whirl backbreaker/neckbreaker combo on Eddie. They work at a much slower pace than the Wolves, systematically picking Edwards apart. They attack limbs, they work methodically to prevent him building any kind of momentum, and they tag in and out frequently to stay fresh. Even when Eddie looks like he might make a tag one of the challengers is on hand to knock Davey off the apron. DOUBLE BOSTON KNEE PARTY by Edwards! Hot tag to Richards, who in turn delivers a double missile dropkick. He makes a beeline for his ex-partner in Team Ambition, clobbering him with Steve Corino’s Eternal Dream lariat for 2. Fish saves him from the running soccer punt though, and drops Davey on his neck with a German. TOTAL ELIMINATION gets 2! Richards blocks the Regalplex. DOUBLE ALARM CLOCK…COUNTERED! BACK DROP DRIVER BY FISH! REGALPLEX BY O’REILLY!

The Wolves land stereo kicks in the corner. STEREO tree of woe dropkicks on Kyle! DOOMSDAY LUNGBLOWER…COUNTERED WITH A REVERSE RANA TO THE FLOOR! FISH HITS A SLINGSHOT SENTON OVER THE TURNBUCKLES! REGAL SUPERPLEX BY O’REILLY! MOONSAULT BY FISH…FOR 2! There are bodies everywhere now. Davey and Kyle batter each other with a wild strike flurry, as Edwards takes Fish out with a Cactus clothesline. CROSS ARMBREAKER on Davey! COUNTERED TO THE ANKLELOCK! O’Reilly rolls through…DOUBLE ALARM CLOCK! POWERBOMB LUNGBLOWER gets 2! Fish saves O’Reilly from the Double Double Stomp BY SHOVING EDDIE THROUGH THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! TOPE SUICIDA BY DAVEY! He nearly caves in Kyle’s chest with a double stomp then gets another nearfall with an Austin Aries-style brainbuster. He still fails with the Anklelock though, and gets shoved shoulder-first into the ringpost. Fish drags Davey to the rails, then hops into the crowd holding the bad arm against the rails. O’REILLY WITH THE MISSILE DROPKICK – OFF THE APRON TO THE SHOULDER! AVALANCHE DIVORCE COURT! FUJIWARA ARMBAR! Davey still fights it! SMALL PACKAGE…GETS 2! His arm is killing him though. CHASING THE DRAGON! DAVEY KICKS OUT! CROSS ARMBREAKER! DAVEY TAPS! O’REILLY FINALLY BEATS HIM! reDRagon win their belts back at 25:58

Rating – ****1/2 – Are people watching the same Tag Title matches that I am? Much like the Wolves/Hooligans match from All Star Extravaganza, this match has got some really lukewarm reviews – yet I come away calling it one of my favourite matches from ROH all year. It was a stunning exhibition of brilliant tag team wrestling, infusing some brilliant formula stuff, amazing athleticism, really strong interactions between four very different personalities and culminating in the pay-off for a year where O’Reilly has continually lost big singles matches – where he finally made his mentor Davey Richards tap out. The last six or seven minutes of this were completely wild, and after going nearly 25-minutes, I have no idea how O’Reilly managed to accurately hit that missile dropkick to the shoulder, from the apron. The Wolves/Hooligans match was fuelled by a thoroughly bizarre and oddly engaging performance from Davey Richards. This didn’t need that kind of gimmicky work from Davey. It was four guys beating each other all over the ring looking to end this feud, score the decisive victory over their great rivals and walk away from New York holding the Tag Titles aloft. Clearly not everyone liked it (I imagine Davey and O’Reilly, in particular, will have all the usual faux-MMA criticisms levelled at them) but, for me, this was superb

SIDENOTE – Having praised the match, I feel the need to complain about the hot potato-ing of the Tag Titles. Again it’s short-sighted, cheap buzz, lazy booking from Delirious/Sinclair as they look for easy buys and effortless headlines without wanting to work hard or be remotely creative about it – and thereby devaluing their championships in the process. Jay Briscoe might be injured? No worries, we need to sell VODs and get people watching our TV show – lets break the 11-year lineage of the World Title to boost buyrates. We have no World Champion for multiple shows as a result? No worries – we’ll just have the Tag Titles change hands on every show instead. It’s lazy, it’s not creative and it’s indicative of the kind of piss poor long-term booking that is holding back SBG’s Ring Of Honor despite a real upswing in the in-ring quality of the product since they let Jim Cornette go.

Just as they did in Chicago when they won them for the first time, reDRagon demand that Cary Silkin come to the ring to officially present them with their Tag Title belts. This time, though, their celebrations are interrupted as Outlaw Inc. run in to attack them. Homicide breaks O’Reilly fingers! THAT is how they should have debuted. I can’t believe they wasted the impact of this on f*cking Marshall Law!

Tape Rating – **** – Another excellent show from Ring Of Honor. Hardly a bad match in sight, with two stunning tag team matches and a hard-hitting heavyweight slugfest taking top honours and all well worth checking out. As usual, Delirious doesn’t have much going on in terms of long-term storylines (he has the World Title tournament, why bother with anything else I suppose), but the instatement of Prince Nana into an ‘authority role’ of sorts (ROH Talent Scout) is interesting – as was his decision to bring back Homicide and Eddie Kingston – although their return was completely botched by more lousy booking. Still very much a show you should be checking out though – you could easily argue it’s Ring Of Honor’s best show so far in 2013.

SIDENOTE – If anything, that’s an ongoing theme with ROH right now. Inside the ring the roster are killing themselves and have really dragged up the quality of ROH’s live shows and television broadcasts. But outside it SBG and/or Delirious are continually handicapping them with bad decisions, stiflingly short ring-time allowances and a fundamental lack of long-term creative vision. Why is the entire undercard basically floating around doing nothing? Why are there so few actual feuds? Just because you have a tournament and some Tag Title changes going on, does that mean we don’t care about the rest of the roster? Gabe Sapolsky was excellent at finding things for the entire roster to do. Great undercard feuds would become legitimate draws in their own right. CM Punk vs Jimmy Rave wasn’t a main event feud when it started – and it was by the end. The same could be said for Embassy vs Generation Next, Jimmy Jacobs vs BJ Whitmer, Colt Cabana vs Homicide and so many more. The reason why ROH’s product seems so stale, despite being so much better in the ring, is that EVERY show feels very similar. There are no angles to advance show-by-show. There is no upwards progression. It would be so much easier to elevate someone like Ciampa, or Cole, or Elgin to credible World Title status if they’d earned their stripes by winning major feuds before. I know he’s been ‘slowly turning heel’ all year – but what has Adam Cole *actually done* in 2013 for instance? Not much more than wrestle endless forgettable 10-12 minute midcard matches and flop in the Border Wars main event. Lets look at Tommaso Ciampa as another example. He returned at Border Wars, but what has he *really done* since then? The fans are into him, he’s got obvious star potential, but it’s evidently not the right time as ROH looks to build the World Title picture around Michael Elgin and Adam Cole. He should be crying out for some kind of feud or rivalry to keep him from going stale. Instead he continues to bounce around the midcard gradually losing momentum with each loss he suffers. Has Jay Lethal done *ANYTHING* of relevance (besides play Elgin’s understudy in the SCUM feud) since the 11th Anniversary? Surely Matt Taven’s reign as TV Champion would have been far more memorable and effective if he’d have won a significant feud over a noteworthy challenger rather than simply winning a succession of largely forgettable defences. And don’t even get me started on Roderick Strong’s aimless undercard job tour of 2013. It’s not good enough to say that they have the World Title tournament, and the Tag Titles are taking centre stage, and the ‘SCUM storyline just finished (I’ve heard that one multiple times). The SCUM storyline didn’t ‘just finish’, they taped Steel Cage Warfare months ago! The reason people just don’t buy into SBG’s ROH as much as they did previous incarnations of this promotion – it’s too predictable, too bland, too safe, too samey, too stale and completely lacking in fresh ideas. This is, quite possibly, ROH’s strongest show of 2013 so far (and inside the ring, they’ve had a good year), so for me to come away feeling quite this cheesed off should tell you exactly how frustrating the lack of decent booking is getting.

Top 3 Matches
3) Michael Elgin vs Karl Anderson (****)
2) Forever Hooligans vs Young Bucks (****)
1) American Wolves vs reDRagon (****1/2)

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